Monday, March 19, 2012

Keeping Tradition Alive

Right foot out to the front and back to position. Left foot out to the back and back to position. Hands moving rhythmically from the elbows and wrists, while maintaining a small bent at the knees. Those are the simple moves of a joget dance. Dance instructor Azura Abal Abas, 43, from Havana Estudio in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur was demonstrating the steps to to a class of sarong-clad beginners who were trying to learn the joget. A few succeeded and many did not because the moves were not as easy as they appeared to be. "It may seem easy but when you do it, you realise it's challenging because we are so used to Western type of dances and tend to shift weight while taking a step and in the process create a hip movement or a shoulder movement," she said.

"Culture has a lot to do with our traditional dances. When we do joget, there are certain cultural aspects to follow like the women dancers' part is more demure with understated expressions," said Azura, who is better known as Ala, adding that the joget was influenced by a Portuguese cultural dance. " The bended knee is also an adat (custom) in the Malay culture as we bend our bodies forward when we walk past older people. Politeness is a virtue in our culture and this attitude is adapted into the dance. "It is details like these that make our cultural dances unique to us. You can see the difference in the way we sway our bodies - the lenggang and liuk" said Ala, who is currently lecturing on a dance subject at Universiti Malaya.

Joget is not the only traditional Malay dance that Ala is teaching at the school. In fact, the newly introduced Malay dance class at the school incorporates a combination of dances including joget, inang and zapin. Inang is a type of dance which has a faster beat compared to the joget, and Ala said it was a dance common among women where a scarf was usually worn. Meanwhile, Zapin is an Arab-influenced dance, which is popular in weddings and berkhatan (circumcision) ceremonies. The school's principal and owner Sharie Dekorte said most dance schools offered various classes on hip hop and other types of modern dances and by introducing the Malay dance class, she hoped to keep the tradition alive. (The Star)

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